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2 Houston organizations announce strategic appointments across finance and research

Here are two of the latest updates on new appointments from two Houston organizations. Photos courtesy

Three Houston innovators have new roles they're excited about this summer. From new academia to bitcoin, here's who's moving and shaking in Houston innovation.

Rice University names vice president for research

Ramamoorthy Ramesh joins Rice to lead research. Photo via Rice.edu

Rice University named Ramamoorthy Ramesh, a condensed matter physicist and materials scientist with more than 25 years of experience, as vice president for research. He most recently chaired energy technology and taught physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is expected to start his new position on August 15. He follows Yousif Shamoo, who served as in the position for eight years, and Doug Natelson, has acted as interim since June.

“Ramesh comes to Rice with a distinguished research career and a wealth of experience and knowledge in various types of research enterprises,” says newly inducted Rice President Reginald DesRoches. “I am confident he will be a transformational leader who can strengthen Rice’s reputation as a center of increasingly impactful and broad-based interdisciplinary research that retains a deep commitment to pedagogy and the student experience.”

In addition to his extensive leadership at Berkeley, Ramesh was the founding director of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, deputy director of science and technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and associate laboratory director at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, per a news Rice release.

“Building upon its rapidly rising research portfolio, Rice has the potential to further strengthen and expand its engagement with public and private funding agencies and be the science and technology beacon for the world,” he says in the release. “I look forward to helping make that happen and to engaging on behalf of the university at various state, national and international fora of relevance to the Rice research enterprise.”

Bitcoin expert joins Houston financial firm

Lisa Hough has a new title. Image courtesy of LevelField

Houston-based LevelField Financial has named Lisa Hough as the company’s head of business development. The financial services firm focuses on uniting digital assets and traditional banking services onto one platform. Hough, with her background in bitcoin and energy trading, will focus on expanding LevelField's market presence and report to Gene A. Grant, II, founder and CEO of the company.

“Lisa is the perfect addition to LevelField's veteran banking and financial service executive team. Her experience will meet our clients’ wants and needs, which are well-managed and regulated investment products that blend established and emerging digital assets,” says Grant in a news release. "Lisa's ability to connect with clients will enable them to rapidly build a well-informed perspective on digital assets.”

Hough has a decade of experience in natural gas trading and risk management at energy trading organizations, including Vastar Resources, Enron, and PG&E National Energy Group, and is a frequent speaker at global finance and energy conferences.

“My passion is to educate and connect all people to bitcoin because it is the only form of property that can be held by every human on earth, regardless of property rights,” she says in the release.

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Building Houston

 
 

This Houston staffing firm has tapped into tech to support the growing gig economy workforce. Photo via Getty Images

As the independent workforce continues to grow, a Houston-based company is aiming to connect these workers with companies that match their specific needs with a new digital platform.

FlexTek, a 14-year old recruiting and staffing company, launched a first gig site tailored to the needs of the individual worker. The platform, Workz360, is built to be able to manage projects, maintain quality control, and manage billing and year-end financial reporting.The company is also working to expanding the platform to provide infrastructure to assist independent workers with education, access to savings programs, tax compliance through vetted third-party CPA firms, and hopes in the future to assist with access to liability and medical insurance.

With a younger workforce and a shifting economy, the “gig economy,” which is another way to describe how people can earn a living as a 1099 worker, offers an alternative option to the corporate grind in a post-pandemic workscape. Chief Marketing Officer Bill Penczak of Workz360 calls this era “Gig 2.0,” and attributes the success of this type of workforce to how during the COVID-19 pandemic people learned how to work, and thrive in non-traditional work environments. The site also boasts the fact it won’t take a bite out of the worker’s pay, which could be an attractive sell for many since other sites can take up to 65 percent of profit.

“In the past few years, with the advent of gig job platforms, the Independent workers have been squeezed by gig work platforms taking a disproportionate amount of the workers’ income,” said FlexTek CEO and founder Stephen Morel in a news release. “As a result, there has been what we refer to as ‘pay padding,’ a phenomenon in which workers are raising their hourly or project rates to compensate for the bite taken by other platforms.

"Workz360 is designed to promote greater transparency, and we believe the net result will be for workers to thrive and companies to save money by using the platform,” he continues.

As the workforce has continued to change over the years, a third of the current U.S. workforce are independent workers according to FlexTek, workers have gained the ability to have more freedom where and how they work. Workz360 aims to cater to this workforce by believing in a simple mantra of treating your workers well.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, but we like the Southwest Airlines model,” Penczak tells InnovationMap. “Southwest Airlines treats their people very well, and as a result those employees treat the passengers really well. We believe the same thing holds true. If we can provide resources, and transparency, and not take a bite out of what the gig worker is charging, then we will get the best and the brightest people since they feel like they won’t be taken advantage of. We think there is an opportunity to be a little different and put the people first.”

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